Coal bed methane, also known as coal seam gas, is a type of natural gas that is extracted from coal beds. It is formed when organic matter in coal deposits is broken down by bacteria, producing methane gas. Coal bed methane can be extracted through drilling techniques that are similar to those used for conventional natural gas. However, coal bed methane extraction can also pose environmental risks, such as groundwater contamination and methane emissions. As a result, the development of coal bed methane resources has been a subject of debate in many countries around the world.
In this article, we will explore the history and current state of CBM use in the US and worldwide, as well as the challenges and opportunities associated with this energy source.
Coal Bed Methane in the USA
The use of CBM in the US dates back to the 1980s when it was first commercially produced in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico. Since then, CBM production has expanded to other regions such as the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, the Illinois Basin, and the Appalachian Basin. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the US has the largest CBM reserves in the world, with an estimated 84 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable CBM reserves.
CBM is primarily used for electricity generation in the US. According to the EIA, CBM accounted for approximately 5% of the total natural gas production in the US in 2019. CBM is also used for industrial purposes such as heating and powering equipment, and it can be converted into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for transportation purposes.
Coal Bed Methane Worldwide
CBM is produced in several countries around the world, including Australia, Canada, China, and India. China has the largest CBM reserves in the world, followed by the US and Australia. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global CBM production has grown rapidly in recent years, from around 15 billion cubic meters in 2000 to approximately 150 billion cubic meters in 2019.
Challenges and Opportunities
While CBM has the potential to be a cleaner-burning fuel compared to other fossil fuels, there are still several challenges associated with its use. One challenge is the potential for groundwater contamination, as CBM production requires the pumping of large amounts of water from coal seams, which can lead to the release of pollutants into nearby groundwater. Additionally, the extraction of CBM can lead to subsidence and land degradation.
However, there are also several opportunities associated with the use of CBM as a fuel. CBM can provide a source of natural gas that is domestically produced, reducing dependence on foreign sources of energy. It can also be a more environmentally friendly option compared to other fossil fuels, as it emits lower levels of greenhouse gases.
The following sources provide more information on CBM and its use in the US and worldwide over the past decade:
- US Energy Information Administration: The EIA is a government agency that provides statistical information on energy production, consumption, and prices in the US. The EIA website provides information on CBM production and use in the US.
- International Energy Agency: The IEA is an intergovernmental organization that provides analysis and policy recommendations on energy issues. The IEA website provides information on global CBM production and use.
- American Coal Council: The American Coal Council is a trade association that represents the coal industry in the US. The website provides information on CBM production and use in the US.
- US Department of Energy: The Department of Energy provides information on energy policy, research, and development in the US, including information on CBM as an energy source.
CBM has the potential to be a cleaner-burning fuel compared to other fossil fuels and has seen significant growth in production and use over the past decade in the US and worldwide. While there are still challenges associated with its use, such as potential groundwater contamination and land degradation, there are also opportunities for domestically produced energy sources that emit lower levels.